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Shaping the Future of Caregiving: Insights from the Delphi Panel

In this blog post, we'll delve into a key method we're employing to gather crucial insights for the VR-SIM Carers program: the Delphi panel. This innovative approach involves engaging both interested parties and caregivers in a collaborative dialogue to gain their perspectives on various facets of the program. By tapping into their collective wisdom, we aim to ensure that the final product not only meets but exceeds the expectations of those it's designed to serve. Join us as we explore how this inclusive process is shaping the development of our program.

What is a Delphi Panel?

A Delphi panel operates as a unique and powerful tool for gathering insights and expertise on complex topics. Essentially, it brings together a diverse group of experts or interested parties who provide their opinions anonymously through a series of structured questionnaires or surveys. These responses are then aggregated and analyzed by a facilitator, who anonymizes the feedback before presenting it back to the panel for further rounds of discussion and refinement. This iterative process continues until a consensus or convergence of opinions is reached. The anonymity of the responses encourages honest and uninhibited contributions, while the iterative nature allows for the exploration of differing viewpoints and the refinement of ideas over time. Ultimately, Delphi panels enable the synthesis of collective wisdom and expertise, making them invaluable for tackling complex problems and informing decision-making processes in various fields.

In our first round, we had the honor of engaging with 18 devoted caregivers, whose firsthand experiences provided a treasure trove of insights. Additionally, we welcomed 14 interested parties, previously identified as stakeholders, whose expertise enriched our discussions with diverse perspectives. Among the key findings unearthed, a striking revelation emerged: over half of the caregivers polled affirmed the paramount importance of self-care in their role. They emphasized the necessity for our program to focus on equipping them with tools to recognize when self-care is warranted and how to maintain a supportive social network while tending to a loved one with dementia. While interested parties identified two primary purposes for the program, with the top-ranking goal being to facilitate caregivers in practicing difficult conversations with their loved ones with dementia. The second priority highlighted was to aid caregivers in fostering relationships and social bonds with others in similar roles.

Another noteworthy discovery revealed a near-even split in preferences: caregivers expressed a desire to comprehend the perspective of individuals living with dementia, while simultaneously yearning for convenient access to caregiving resources from any location. These findings underscore the multifaceted needs of caregivers and illuminate crucial avenues for our program's development. When queried about the program's purpose, caregivers resoundingly emphasized the importance of nurturing their relationship with loved ones affected by dementia. Caregivers also pinpointed two primary areas for their learning priorities when using VR: comprehending the intricacies of relationships with individuals living with dementia and acquiring insights into the diverse stages and symptoms of the condition.

Less than half of the caregivers felt the need for a healthcare professional to accompany them while utilizing the tool. This highlights our commitment to creating a program that is accessible anytime and anywhere, empowering caregivers to use it independently, without the need for additional assistance. Moreover, caregivers overwhelmingly supported the implementation of a chat function, with an impressive 83% expressing its potential value as a debriefing tool. In addition, when the possibility of recording sessions for training purposes was raised, both interested parties and caregivers were in agreement, with approximately 71-72% consensus from each group, respectively.

Furthermore, both caregivers and interested parties underscored the significance of voice activation as a feedback tool. Should its integration present challenges, however, we are prepared to leverage both voice and audio feedback to ensure users receive timely and pertinent guidance. Lastly, a virtual support group emerged as the favored method of support outside of VR, reflecting the desire for communal assistance among caregivers. This platform offers a space for caregivers to connect, communicate, and seek solace in shared experiences.

Additionally, it's important to note that another round of Delphi panel discussions is currently underway. Building upon the insights gathered in the initial round, this ongoing engagement with caregivers and interested parties will further refine our understanding of their needs and preferences. Their input will continue to shape the development of the VR-SIM Carers program, ensuring that it evolves to meet the evolving demands of those it aims to support. This iterative process underscores our commitment to inclusivity and responsiveness as we strive to create a solution that truly empowers caregivers in their vital role.

Looking ahead, we're thrilled to announce the upcoming Knowledge Mobilization Summit on June 24th. This event serves as a beacon of collaboration, where ideas converge, and innovations take flight. Importantly, the data derived from our Delphi Panel discussions is poised to inform the very prototype we'll be showcasing at the summit. It's a testament to the power of collective wisdom, driving meaningful change in the caregiving landscape. As we continue this journey, we invite you to stay tuned for further updates and insights. Together, we're pioneering a new frontier in caregiving—one that's grounded in empathy, innovation, and above all, a profound commitment to those who dedicate their lives to caring for others.

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